W.G. Snuffy Walden

Composer


The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation Presents

02:26

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About
About this interview

In his four-hour Archive interview, W.G. Snuffy Walden outlines his career as a composer. He describes his childhood in Texas, learning to play instruments, and getting very interested in music during his senior year of high school. He discusses several bands of which he was a member (The Showmen, PSY123, Aphrodite, Stray Dog) and recalls his first time touring. Walden openly discusses his struggles with drug and alcohol abuse, quitting music for a time, and returning to music and playing for film and television. He tells of his first composition for television - for thirtysomething - and talks about his ongoing relationship with creators Edward Zwick and Marshall Herskowitz, for whom Walden also composed on My So-Called Life, Quarter Life, and Once and Again. He details composing for The Wonder Years, Sisters, and I'll Fly Away, and speaks of his relationship with Aaron Sorkin and composing for Sports Night, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, and The West Wing. Walden also describes his writing process, what his studio space is like, and talks of working with a live orchestra. He comments on composing for several TV movies and miniseries, including Winne, Roe v. Wade, and The Outsiders. He touches on the differences between composing for sitcoms and dramas (he composed for The Drew Carey Show, Roseanne, and George Lopez, among others) and demonstrates a few of his compositions - including "Winnie's theme" from The Wonder Years and the theme to The West Wing. Stephen J. Abramson conducted the interview on April 10, 2008 in Los Angeles, CA.

"If you can move someone with music, when you do, you bring them up. You lift people. You can move someone from one emotional space to another … Whether I do it with one note or a million doesn't matter. Whether or not it stands alone as a musical piece, I think the most important thing is to move the viewer, to move the listener." 

Highlights
W.G. Snuffy Walden on "Winnie's theme" for The Wonder Years
00:46
W.G. Snuffy Walden on composing the theme for thirtysomething
02:49
W.G. Snuffy Walden on composing the prologue theme for The West Wing
03:17
W.G. Snuffy Walden on the theme to My So-Called Life
01:01
W.G. Snuffy Walden on what he strives to achieve with his work
01:53
W.G. Snuffy Walden on his nickname "Snuffy"
01:41
Full Interview

Chapter 1

On growing up in Texas; on his nickname "Snuffy"; on moving from Houston to East Texas and growing up on a cattle ranch; on loving the music of Elvis Presley; on TV shows he liked as a kid; on wanting to be a doctor; on learning to play instruments and getting very interested in music his senior year of high school
On playing guitar and playing music with his brother in the band The Showmen (which became PSY123); on loving blues and rock and roll and disliking country music at the time; on starting to write his own music; on enrolling in college and dropping out to play music in a strip club
On feeling like he could have a career as a composer; on his first professional job; on playing with B.J. Thomas when he was 14; on recording albums in the 1970s, playing with the band Aphrodite, and traveling to England; on touring with the band Stray Dog
On playing back up for Eric Burdon; on his drug use; on starting to produce and moving to Los Angeles; on writing music professionally and his escalating drug and alcohol use; on quitting music, and returning to play guitar for the movie Staving Alive
On appearing on Laverne & Shirley in 1979; on his first composition for TV - for thirtysomething; on composing the theme for thirtysomething; on instruments in the thirtysomething score; on using a Coke bottle in the score

Chapter 2

On scoring thirtysomething, contd.; on his musical partnership with Stewart Levin; on composing for The Wonder Years
On his musical partnership with Stewart Levin; on the theme to thirtysomething; on the influence of the theme for thirtysomething
On composing for The Wonder Years; on "Winnie's theme" for The Wonder Years
On composing for TV movies: Winnie, Roe vs. Wade; on differences between composing for series and for TV movies; on composing for TV movies Roe v. Wade, The Outsiders, Burning Bridges, Guess Who's Coming For Christmas?
On composing music for Sisters, and I'll Fly Away; on his approach to writing music; on the theme to I'll Fly Away
On writing music for episodic television; on the challenges of scoring to dialogue

Chapter 3

On the thirtysomething theme standing apart from the rest of the show; on building a library of music cues for a show, researching music, and his studio space; on how he decides when and where to add music to a show; on working with producers and network executives
On working with a lyricist; on proteges; on rarely going to set; on recording with an orchestra; on composing for the TV movie Rise and Walk: The Dennis Byrd Story
On composing for the Stephen King miniseries The Stand; on composing for My So-Called Life
On differences between composing for sitcoms and dramas; on composing for The Jackie Thomas Show and Roseanne; on building a library of cues for sitcoms; on composing the theme for The West Wing; on composing for Ellen, Tom, Roseanne, The Drew Carey Show, Norm, and Sports Night
On composing for Providence and Once and Again; on writing themes for characters; on music for Lipstick Jungle
On composing for The West Wing; on composing the prologue theme for The West Wing and marrying the graphics, visuals, and music together; on using a full orchestra on the series

Chapter 4

On a demonstration of The West Win g theme; on working with a live orchestra; on comparisons of The West Wing theme to Aaron Copeland's compositions
On composing for George Lopez, The Brotherhood of Poland, New Hampshire, Miracles, Huff, Kidnapped, and Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip; on Aaron Sorkin's love of H.M.S. Pinafore
On composing for Friday Night Lights; on his Emmy win for The West Win g; on meaningful moments of recognition in his career; on then-current projects; on working on several Warner Brothers shows
On the most important thing a composer can bring to a television show; on what he strives to achieve with his work; on composing for television being mostly freelance work; on rarely retaining the rights to his creations
On his style; on advice to aspiring composers; on how he'd like to be remembered; on a demo of the first piece he ever wrote - for his father
Shows

Brotherhood of Poland, New Hampshire, The

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W.G. Snuffy Walden on composing for The Brotherhood of Poland, New Hampshire
01:11

Drew Carey Show, The

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W.G. Snuffy Walden on composing for The Drew Carey Show
00:38

Ellen

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W.G. Snuffy Walden on composing for Ellen
00:29

Friday Night Lights

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W.G. Snuffy Walden on composing for Friday Night Lights
01:35
W.G. Snuffy Walden on composing for Friday Night Lights
00:19

George Lopez

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W.G. Snuffy Walden on composing for George Lopez
01:01

Huff

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W.G. Snuffy Walden on composing for Huff and getting an Emmy nomination
01:00

I'll Fly Away

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W.G. Snuffy Walden on composing for I'll Fly Away
03:48
W.G. Snuffy Walden on composing for I'll Fly Away
07:46

In Plain Sight

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W.G. Snuffy Walden on composing for In Plain Sight
00:18

Jackie Thomas Show, The

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W.G. Snuffy Walden on composing for The Jackie Thomas Show
01:21

Kidnapped

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W.G. Snuffy Walden on composing for Kidnapped and getting an Emmy nomination
01:05

Laverne & Shirley

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W.G. Snuffy Walden on appearing on Laverne & Shirley in 1979
02:18

Lipstick Jungle

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W.G. Snuffy Walden on composing for Lipstick Jungle
00:41
W.G. Snuffy Walden on composing for Lipstick Jungle
00:52

Miracles

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W.G. Snuffy Walden on composing for Miracles and getting an Emmy nomination
01:02

My So-Called Life

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W.G. Snuffy Walden on composing for My So-Called Life
01:52

Once and Again

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W.G. Snuffy Walden on composing for Once and Again
03:02

Outsiders, The

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W.G. Snuffy Walden on composing for the TV movie The Outsiders
00:26

Providence

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W.G. Snuffy Walden on composing for Providence
02:41

Rise and Walk: The Dennis Byrd Story

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W.G. Snuffy Walden on composing for TV movie Rise and Walk: The Dennis Byrd Story
01:14

Roe vs. Wade

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W.G. Snuffy Walden on composing for the TV movie Roe vs. Wade
00:47
W.G. Snuffy Walden on composing for the TV movie Roe vs. Wade
00:33

Roseanne

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W.G. Snuffy Walden on composing for Roseanne
00:24
W.G. Snuffy Walden on composing for Roseanne
00:19

Sisters

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W.G. Snuffy Walden on composing for Sisters
04:29

Sports Night

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W.G. Snuffy Walden on composing for Sports Night
07:22

Stephen King's The Stand

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W.G. Snuffy Walden on composing for the Stephen King miniseries The Stand
05:27

Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip

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W.G. Snuffy Walden on composing for Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip
04:56

Thirtysomething

View Show Page
W.G. Snuffy Walden on his first composition for TV - for thirtysomething
15:26
W.G. Snuffy Walden on composing for thirtysomething
07:01
W.G. Snuffy Walden on composing for thirtysomething
08:02
W.G. Snuffy Walden on the thirtysomething theme standing apart from the rest of the show
01:01

Tom

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W.G. Snuffy Walden on composing for Tom
00:26

West Wing, The

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W.G. Snuffy Walden on composing the theme for The West Wing
02:02
W.G. Snuffy Walden on composing for The West Wing
09:09
W.G. Snuffy Walden on a demonstration of The West Win g theme; on working with a live orchestra
07:24
W.G. Snuffy Walden on his Emmy win for The West Win g
02:20

Winnie

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W.G. Snuffy Walden on composing for the TV movie Winnie
02:08

Wonder Years, The

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W.G. Snuffy Walden on composing for The Wonder Years
02:09
W.G. Snuffy Walden on composing for The Wonder Years
07:16
Topics

Emmy Awards

View Topic
W.G. Snuffy Walden on his Emmy win for The West Win g
02:20

TV Theme Songs

View Topic
W.G. Snuffy Walden on composing the theme for thirtysomething
02:49
W.G. Snuffy Walden on the theme of thirtysomehting as its own character
06:28
W.G. Snuffy Walden on composing the theme for thirtysomething
02:38
W.G. Snuffy Walden on the influence of the theme for thirtysomething
01:28
W.G. Snuffy Walden on composing and using voices for the theme for I'll Fly Away
02:47
W.G. Snuffy Walden on the theme to My So-Called Life
01:01
W.G. Snuffy Walden on composing the theme for The West Wing
01:34
W.G. Snuffy Walden on composing the prologue theme for The West Wing
03:17
W.G. Snuffy Walden on composing the theme for The West Wing
00:14
W.G. Snuffy Walden on a demonstration of The West Win g theme
01:14
Professions

Composer

View Profession
W.G. Snuffy Walden on feeling like he could have a career as a composer
03:39
W.G. Snuffy Walden on starting to write his own music
01:03
W.G. Snuffy Walden on composing the theme for thirtysomething
02:49
W.G. Snuffy Walden on composing for thirtysomething
00:30
W.G. Snuffy Walden on his approach to writing music
02:16
W.G. Snuffy Walden on writing music for episodic television; on the challenges of scoring to dialogue
06:43
W.G. Snuffy Walden on building a library of music cues for a show, researching music, and his studio space
07:02
W.G. Snuffy Walden on how he decides when and where to add music to a show
01:29
W.G. Snuffy Walden on the most important thing a composer can bring to a television show
01:42
W.G. Snuffy Walden on what he strives to achieve with his work
01:53
W.G. Snuffy Walden on his style
00:33
W.G. Snuffy Walden on advice to aspiring composers
01:35
Genres

Comedy Series

View Genre
W.G. Snuffy Walden on composing for Sports Night
07:22

Drama Series

View Genre
W.G. Snuffy Walden on his first composition for TV - for thirtysomething; on composing the theme for thirtysomething
14:08
W.G. Snuffy Walden on composing for thirtysomething
06:58
W.G. Snuffy Walden on composing for The Wonder Years
07:16
W.G. Snuffy Walden on composing for Sisters
04:29
W.G. Snuffy Walden on composing for I'll Fly Away
11:34
W.G. Snuffy Walden on composing for The West Wing
09:09
W.G. Snuffy Walden on composing for My So-Called Life
01:52
W.G. Snuffy Walden on a demonstration of The West Win g theme
01:14
W.G. Snuffy Walden on his Emmy win for The West Win g
02:20
W.G. Snuffy Walden on composing for Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip
04:02
W.G. Snuffy Walden on composing for Friday Night Lights
01:35
People

Tom Arnold

View Person Page
W.G. Snuffy Walden on composing for The Jackie Thomas Show and Roseanne
01:55

Meredith Baxter-Birney

View Person Page
W.G. Snuffy Walden on composing for the TV movie Winnie
02:08

Peter Berg

View Person Page
W.G. Snuffy Walden on composing for TV movie Rise and Walk: The Dennis Byrd Story
01:14
W.G. Snuffy Walden on composing for Friday Night Lights
01:35

Francis Ford Coppola

View Person Page
W.G. Snuffy Walden on composing for the TV movie The Outsiders
00:26

Ron Cowen

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W.G. Snuffy Walden on working with Sisters creators Daniel Lipman and Ron Cowen
01:24

Michael Dinner

View Person Page
W.G. Snuffy Walden on composing for TV movie Rise and Walk: The Dennis Byrd Story
01:14
W.G. Snuffy Walden on composing for Kidnapped and getting an Emmy nomination
01:05

Marshall Herskovitz

View Person Page
W.G. Snuffy Walden on his first composition for TV - for thirtysomething
07:14
W.G. Snuffy Walden on the theme of thirtysomehting as its own character
06:28
W.G. Snuffy Walden on composing the theme for thirtysomething
02:38
W.G. Snuffy Walden on composing for My So-Called Life
01:52
W.G. Snuffy Walden on composing for Once and Again
03:02
W.G. Snuffy Walden on composing the theme for Quarter Life
00:20

Winnie Holzman

View Person Page
W.G. Snuffy Walden on composing for My So-Called Life
01:52

David E. Kelley

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W.G. Snuffy Walden on composing for The Brotherhood of Poland, New Hampshire
01:11

Stephen King

View Person Page
W.G. Snuffy Walden on composing for the Stephen King miniseries The Stand
05:27

Daniel Lipman

View Person Page
W.G. Snuffy Walden on working with Sisters creators Daniel Lipman and Ron Cowen
01:24

Penny Marshall

View Interview Page
W.G. Snuffy Walden on appearing on Laverne & Shirley in 1979
00:57

Michael McKean

View Person Page
W.G. Snuffy Walden on appearing on Laverne & Shirley in 1979; on the band he was working with becoming the band in This is Spinal Tap
02:18

Elvis Presley

View Person Page
W.G. Snuffy Walden on loving the music of Elvis Presley
00:44

Roseanne

View Person Page
W.G. Snuffy Walden on composing for The Jackie Thomas Show and Roseanne
01:55

Bennett Salvay

View Person Page
W.G. Snuffy Walden on composing for Providence
02:41
W.G. Snuffy Walden on composing for Friday Night Lights
01:35

Thomas Schlamme

View Interview Page
W.G. Snuffy Walden on composing the theme for The West Wing
02:02
W.G. Snuffy Walden on composing for Sports Night
07:22
W.G. Snuffy Walden on composing for West Wing
09:09
W.G. Snuffy Walden on composing for Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip
04:02

Aaron Sorkin

View Person Page
W.G. Snuffy Walden on composing the theme for The West Wing
02:02
W.G. Snuffy Walden on composing for Sports Night
07:22
W.G. Snuffy Walden on composing for West Wing
09:09
W.G. Snuffy Walden on composing for Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip
04:02
W.G. Snuffy Walden on Aaron Sorkin's love of H.M.S. Pinafore
00:54
W.G. Snuffy Walden on composing the theme for The West Wing
00:14

John Williams

View Person Page
W.G. Snuffy Walden on composing for West Wing
02:09

Scott Winant

View Person Page
W.G. Snuffy Walden on his first composition for TV - for thirtysomething
08:49

Monica Wyatt

View Person Page
W.G. Snuffy Walden on composing for Providence
02:41

Edward Zwick

View Person Page
W.G. Snuffy Walden on his first composition for TV - for thirtysomething
07:14
W.G. Snuffy Walden on the theme of thirtysomehting as its own character
06:28
W.G. Snuffy Walden on composing the theme for thirtysomething
02:38
W.G. Snuffy Walden on composing for My So-Called Life
01:52
W.G. Snuffy Walden on composing for Once and Again
03:02
W.G. Snuffy Walden on composing the theme for Quarter Life
00:20

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